THIS is what you were born to talk about

AlexiaCommunication, Culture

Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 12.34.40 PMIt’s been exactly a month since I started working one-on-one with my final group, at least for the foreseeable future, of individual entrepreneurs, executives, creatives, professionals, and thought leaders on their spotlight talks. It’s been a wild and truly awesome ride. Through their collective passion, experience, and expertise I’ve had the opportunity to learn about everything from bodybuilding, health insurance, and ESL to web design, copywriting, and building wells in Africa. I feel like I should receive an honorable PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies soon.

While some of these soul-stirrers have been speaking for a while and just want to up their game, others have not and initially struggled to identify exactly what they should speak about in their first big talk. Because this is such a common source of ‘stuckness’ for emerging and seasoned speakers, I want to share with you one of my favorite strategies for choosing the right “idea worth spreading”, the foundation of any TED-style talk, and the right opening story.

Here’s an excerpt of what I share in greater detail in Your Spotlight Talk, born out of my work with one of my client’s, TEDx speaker Sandi Herrera.

When Sandi and I first started talking about her life and the stories she could share, she was in one of my women’s public speaking programs and she had previously been petrified of speaking publicly. She would get the shakes, her voice would quaver…the whole “I think I’m going to die” negative self-talk loop was…well, constantly on loop. When I asked her to go through her life and identify her stories, a lot of different ones came up. Like most of us, Sandi had no shortage of moments that had brought her to her knees. But she was initially stumped by what she would identify as her signature story for her first spotlight talk.

Truthfully, so was I. So I asked Sandi to imagine all of her key stories in conversation with each other. I wanted her really to picture her life speaking to her, because I wanted her to identify a theme that emerged. When she did everything, and I mean everything, changed.

Sandi realized that every story was about searching for purpose, and that what she was called to do was help children and the educators who work with those children have a means for finding their purpose. The vehicle that had worked for her, and that she would use with them, creating core values.

In the first talk I coached Sandi on she shared her journey to finding purpose. And not an ounce of the old fear was there because everything that poured out of her was exactly what she was born to speak about. Less than four months later, Sandi had founded her own educational consulting and coaching company, Got Core Values, and she applied to speak at the TEDx I co-organize and co-host.

And she was a no brainer pick. She was super duper clear on her “idea worth spreading” – that to transform our schools and school culture, it’s vital to engage school communities in identifying and living their core values. After all, this idea was the impetus for starting her own business.

Let’s learn a bit from Sandi RIGHT NOW. Think about a few of the stories that feel like they could be the start to a spotlight talk, and imagine that they are in conversation with one another.

What are they saying to each other?

What themes keep reemerging?

How have these stories shaped the issues you are passionate about and the work you are doing (or would like to be doing) in the world?

Once you start to see a theme emerge, like Sandi did, see how you can use that theme as your “idea worth spreading”. Here are some examples from a few of my favorite TED and TEDx talks. 

In The power of introverts, Susan Cain discusses how being an introvert has actually given her an advantage, despite how the world is designed around the needs and desires of extroverts.

In Greening the ghetto, Majora Carter talks about how losing her brother to gun violence prompted her to transform the South Bronx.

And in one of my favorite TEDx talks, The shocking truth about your health, Dr. Lissa Rankin shares how her perfect storm led her to reframe how she thinks about health, and how that ‘aha’ changed the way she practices medicine.

Each talk has a core story. And it leads perfectly into her “idea worth spreading”.

What’s yours?

I’d love for you to share your response in the comments on the blog or over on Facebook. Also, if you are moved by how Sandi is revolutionizing the way schools partner with students, via creating school environments and cultures around common core values, I invite you to take the next 5 minutes to click on this link, learn more about GotCoreValues, and contribute what you can.